The arrival on the London education scene of the West London Free School (WLFS), the realisation of ambition for the loathsome Toby Young, has been well chronicled on Zelo Street, as have the school’s problems, and the many taxpayer millions it has required to start it up and keep in going. But now, to no surprise at all, has come news that Captain Bellend’s Madrasa is facing cutbacks - just like ordinary schools, then.
More less than totally grown up analysis from Tobes
Warwick Mansell’s Guardian article - as ever, it is left to the few media outlets that have not uncritically swallowed Tobes’ propaganda wholesale to shine some light on the reality of the situation - tells “It is one of the best-known academy chains in England. It has a super-high-profile leader and reportedly one of the highest numbers of applications per place in London. But now even West London Free School Academy Trust (WLFSAT) is feeling the chill from icy financial winds buffeting schools, its recent governing body minutes reveal”. Tobes’ WLFS may not be bust. But if it does not act soon, it will be.
Mansell illustrates the kind of largesse that the WLFS will have to do without in the future: “as of 2015, 60% of parents at the secondary school were paying £35 a month towards extracurricular activities. This helped generate a £100,000 school fund, which helped meet a £44,000 deficit on a hockey trip to South Africa”. Exactly what educational objective is satisfied by hockey trips to South Africa? That’s delusional and pointless.
He also shows why Tobes is “stepping down” as CEO of the Trust (my information is that he has been “eased out”): “In July, Young reported having approached 16 schools [with the intention of having them join the WLFSAT] ‘with two replies received so far’, and with a ‘pitch’ being made to another institution with close links to the government: Greenwich free school … Businessman Justin Tooth, a trustee, then suggested Young phone the ‘top five schools on the list’ and follow up in writing”. Young had to have his job spelt out to him.
Why might the WLFSAT be facing cutbacks, estimated by its head teacher at 12% in real terms? Ah well. As Mansell notes, this is “partly owing to the end of the five-year ‘startup’ funding the secondary school had received under the free schools programme, which stopped in August”. What will the exam results look like without it?
Tobes’ excuses were a predictable outpouring of deflection and clouding the issue: “The trust is certainly looking at ways to grow. However, that’s because we want to make the trust sustainable over the long term, not because we are in any financial difficulty. It’s no secret that schools are facing some budget cuts in the coming years and we’ve been looking at different ways to cope with that. As for ‘sponsorship’ … we’re certainly not intending to become the Kentucky Fried Chicken free school any time soon”.
Nobody was suggesting they were, thanks. Nor was there any suggestion that the WLFSAT was in financial difficulties. But there was no rebuttal of their own assertion - “Minutes of a trust meeting last December say WLFSAT needs nine schools to be ‘sustainable in the long term’”, or that Tobes has been approaching other schools.
Or rather, he has been trying to approach them, honestly. As Mansell also notes, “Young says he tried to phone the five schools but did not get through”. Brilliant. His Free School trust is skint, and that’s the best he can do. And he wonders why he is the subject of ridicule. Toby Young is called Captain Bellend … because he’s a Bellend.